Friday, September 15, 2006

"Give 'Em What They Want"?

My first week back to school. Hectic, frantic, chaotic… I'm trying to hold down 2 part time jobs while schooling full time. You know how it is, you must all have been in my shoes one time or another. I guess this is my way of letting you know why I neglected blogging. But no worries, Connie will be back imminently.

Meanwhile, on the home front:

One of the courses I'm taking this semester is Collection Development. Basically, how to build and manage your library's collections. First day in class, the professor introduced a popular concept among the public libraries: "Give 'Em What They Want", also known as the Consumers-Driven Library.

At first glance, it makes great sense. If you give the public what it wants, then your library's circulation will increase, in turns will improve your library's performance, and ultimately will help to secure your next budget. In addition, studies have shown that variances of clients' interest among the library's branches are minimal. What the public wants often coincides with the recommended lists provided by the vendors. Why waste time, money, and effort to survey clients' interests, evaluate and select the individual books when your library can optimize its efficiency and effectiveness by simply checking off the 20 items on the list that your vendors have already prepared for you. Ready for automated shipping with all sorts of discounts. You save money, the public gets what it wants, and you get your budget approved at the end of the year. Win-win situation. Or is it?

The thorny issue of this concept, our professor argued, is that it assumes the public knows what it wants. Unlike special [legal] libraries, where our clients are professionals/experts in their fields: they [should] know what they want. The general public, on the other hand, gets its information from the various sources such as the bestseller lists [published by the vendors, surpise, surpise] or media hypes [undoubtedly created by the vendors], when it should have relied on independent and professional sources such as libraries/librarians. In the end, consumers-driven library really means vendors-driven library.

Do we future librarians want to make a difference? Do we want to "Give 'Em What They Need" instead of "Give 'Em What the Vendors Sell"? Do we want to go against the current practice, don't give them what they want, watch our circulation dwindle, and hope for the best?

Who says librarianship is boring?

No comments: